The fallout from a complaint against a Brown County hotel that turned into a lawsuit by the Indiana attorney general has become a nightmare for the owners of the sleepy Nashville, Ind., inn.
Amanda Sweet says she has been receiving death threats following media coverage of the 2016 complaint by a guest at Abbey Inn & Suites and the consumer legal action filed earlier this month.
"At this point, I don't know if we can keep our doors open," Sweet said.
Sweet's story starts with a couple who were charged $350 for leaving a negative complaint on the hotel's website.
Greene County residents Katrina Arthur and her husband stayed at the Abbey Inn in March 2016, according to a consumer complaint filed with the attorney general's office.
Shortly after their stay, they received an email from the inn to leave an online review. The inn posted reviews on its website.
Arthur posted a negative review, saying that her room smelled like sewage and was unkempt. Later she found she was charged $350.
The hotel had a policy that if a guest "disparages" the hotel in any public manner, the hotel would be entitled to charge an additional $350 in damage, according to the attorney general's lawsuit.
The hotel has a policy that forces customers to accept the hotel's final and binding "exclusive remedy" no matter what the remedy entails and whether or not it resolves the situation, the lawsuit said.
After finding similar complaints about Abbey Inn, Arthur filed a complaint with the Indiana attorney general in an attempt to get her $350 back.
The attorney general's lawsuit, filed Dec. 15 in Brown County, alleges that the hotel's management group, owned by Andrew Szalaky, violated the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act.
The attorney general's office called the hotel's policy "unfair, abusive and deceptive."
The lawsuit also alleges that Abbey Inn frequently did not have employees on site to resolve guest issues and that there was a sign that stated if guests called the overnight phone number for a non-emergency, the hotel would charge an additional $100.
The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the hotel from initiating or threatening legal action if "a customer makes a non-defamatory or negative statement" regarding a stay. An injunction is also sought against contract "terms that are oppressively one-sided or harsh."
News of the lawsuit went viral, and Sweet said that overnight she began to receive a slew of hateful phone calls. She said the lawsuit is against the previous owner. "I have nothing to do with it," she said.
She said she took a risk on reopening the hotel in January.
Indiana secretary of state records indicate a business relationship between Sweet and Szalaky at the inn since at least 2008. A filing document shows that Szalaky listed Sweet as the registered agent for her wedding business using Abbey Inn's address.
Multiple website directories also indicate that Sweet and Szakaly may be related.
Additional phone calls to Sweet to clarify her ties to Szalaky went unanswered.
The attorney general’s office declined to comment on the case.
Call IndyStar reporter Fatima Hussein at (317) 444-6209. Follow her on Twitter: @fatimathefatima.
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